Will Sheila Polk, Anti-Prop 205 Group Return Chandler Fentanyl Maker's $500K Donation?

Insys Therapeutics of Chandler made millions from a fraudulent marketing scheme that fueled the opioid crisis in Arizona, state Attorney General Mark Brnovich alleges in a new lawsuit.

What Brnovich doesn't point out in his news release today is that Insys Therapeutics used $500,000 of its allegedly dirty money to help fund Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, an anti-cannabis group chaired by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

And the group never returned the money, despite mounting evidence in multiple states that Brnovich's lawsuit has merit.

According to Brnovich, whose office has been investigating Insys for months, the pharmaceutical company unethically pushed Subsys, its product that the AG called "a highly addictive opioid prescription drug that contains fentanyl."

Insys Therapeutics officials "violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act by providing insurers with false and misleading information to obtain prior authorization for Subsys prescriptions for patients. For example, Insys employees were allegedly instructed to mislead insurers into believing that patients who were prescribed Subsys had cancer when in fact they did not," according to the suit.

The ARDP was instrumental in helping to defeat Prop 205, the state's recreational-cannabis ballot initiative last year, using the Insys money and about $5 million donated from various other people and businesses.

The group remains in existence with Polk at the helm, maintaining an internet presence and sponsoring seminars, but generally lying low while waiting for the next adult-use cannabis proposition to surface.

Besides Polk, Governor Doug Ducey also played a large role in soliciting donations for the ARDP, and may have directly helped secure the Insys Therapeutics donation.

The public company gave away one reason it was interested in defeating Prop 205 in one of its mandatory filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: It believed legal cannabis would compete with one of its other products, Syndros, a synthetic form of THC.

For an article about the donation in September 2016, Insys Therapeutics and Ducey's office declined comment on whether Ducey solicited the donation.

However, for an article about Ducey's overall help with ARDP donations, his campaign manager, J.P. Twist, said at the time, that the governor has been open about wanting to see Prop 205 fail.

"The governor is helping out where and when he can — including fundraising," Twist said.

What's clear is that ARDP spent the fentanyl-laced money.

Campaign-finance reports show that the group spent most of the $5 million-plus it raised on TV ads and consultants before the November election, then spent nearly $200,000 paying bills in the month after the election.

The group had $20,980.72 in its bank account as of June 30, according to its most-recent report, which was filed with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office on July 13. But the group has also collected about $50,000 in new contributions since the election, including $10,000 from Bashas' grocery stores in January.

Polk didn't respond to a request for comment on Thursday about whether she'd find a way to return the $500,000 to Insys Therapeutics.

Prop 205's former chair, J.P. Holyoak, criticized Ducey, Polk, and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery over the donation in an op-ed earlier this month.

On Thursday, following Brnovich's announcement, Holyoak said he was pleased that Arizona has joined other states in prosecuting companies like Insys Therapeutics.

"Now if we could only find a way to stop our county attorneys from accepting campaign money from these corrupt opioid companies, all of Arizona would be better off for it," he added. "It would be a fair and accurate statement to say that ARDP is still funded by corrupt opioid money. If ARDP and Sheila Polk have any integrity whatsoever, they would return that $500,000 immediately."

Click on the link below to read the complaint against Insys Therapeutics, which also names three Arizona doctors accused of colluding with the company in the alleged fraud:

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.

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